has championship pedigree, and his combination of playmaking and defense has made him a valuable commodity.
Wahl was a major part of the Spokane Chiefs winning the Western Hockey League title and the Memorial Cup last season.
Wahl, selected in the second round (No. 48) by the Calgary Flames
at the 2008 Entry Draft, thinks playing for a championship team helped raise his draft standing.
"That definitely helped my stock a little bit," Wahl told The Calgary Herald. "I had a good tournament, so I think it definitely improved my chances to go higher."
Flames Director of Scouting Tod Button disagrees and insists Calgary had him rated as a player they wanted to take even earlier in the draft.
"We had him well before (No. 48)," Button told the Herald. "We had him rated high earlier in the year and we watched him all year. We knew about him going into last year with the USA program. The Memorial Cup was a good bonus for him, but if his performance had been bad, it wouldn't have made a difference. We were already firm on him."
At 6-foot and 175 pounds, Wahl isn't the biggest player on the ice, but he has been relied on to kill penalties and stop the opponents' top line.
NHL Central Scouting's Blair MacDonald
sees Wahl's skill, but also recognizes his weakness when it comes to the gritty part of the game.
"Mitch is a smaller, skilled player with a good skating and playmaking ability," MacDonald said. "He controls and dishes the puck well, but needs to show more desire to enter into traffic and to battle around the net. He has good puck awareness and is used effectively on the penalty kill."
Wahl was second on the Chiefs with 73 points in 67 games during the regular season and had 6 goals and 14 points in 21 WHL playoff games. He capped his season with two goals and six points in four games at the Memorial Cup.
Wahl tied for the team lead during the regular season with a plus-33 rating, and had a plus-6 rating during the playoffs.
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(7th West / 14th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07
(5th West / 9th NHL)
(5th West / 14th NHL)
While Spokane coach Bill Peters loves Wahl's offensive ability, he marvels at his defensive prowess.
"Mitch is starting to round into a complete player," said Peters. "In his draft year he is (tied for No. 20) in the WHL in scoring, but more impressive to me is he is (tied for fifth) in the WHL in plus-minus. That means as a 17-year-old centerman, he is playing against other team's number one lines night in, night out. He is a playmaking center who looks to get his wingers the puck and he has very good on-ice vision and creativity."
Peters also likes Wahl's uncanny vision.
"I said to my assistant coach, 'If I played on this team, I'd like to play with Mitch Wahl
,'" Peters told CHL.ca. "I said it again after he set another guy up with a back-door pass and I said it loud enough for everyone to hear and nobody said anything. I said, 'Because he gets you the puck.' From that point on, guys were saying that they wanted to play with Wahlie (because) even though he was 16, he was going to get you the puck."
Wahl played last season on a line with Carolina Hurricanes
prospect Drayson Bowman
and Spokane captain Chris Bruton
. While Bowman and Bruton were both born in hockey hotbeds, Wahl has some unconventional hockey roots, growing up in California. Wayne Gretzky
left the Los Angeles Kings
in 1996 when Wahl was just 6, but he still impacted Wahl's career.
"My parents put me into (hockey) when I was young," Wahl said. "I think it was because Gretzky got traded down to the Kings."
Wahl hopes to continue his career in Calgary, and if everything goes right his on-ice vision and defense can help the Flames.